|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
34th World Vegetarian Congress 2000
Reports originally from vegetarian.about.com
by Tiffany Refior
July 17, 2000
Rae Sikora, an anthropologist and environmental educator, is co-founder of the Center for Compassionate Living in Surry, Maine, where she and Zoe Weil lead workshops and have created the nation's first Humane Education Certification Program (HECP).
Throughout the week-long 34th World Vegetarian Congress in Toronto, Ms. Sikora spoke about compassionate living, communication, and consumerism. She urged participants not to get caught up in consumerism and advertising. She emphasized that we all have knowledge to share with others, and "when you share with people here, it's going to be from someone speaking from their heart, not someone who's going to make a profit."
Ms. Sikora runs programs around the world and suggests that, when encountering a product, we ask ourselves a simple question: "Is this a want or a need?" She says that, when she goes into high schools in America and holds up a Coke can, many students identify it as a need rather than a want. This speaks to the power of advertising, she asserts, and says that we need to think consciously about every choice we make, to consider its effect on ourselves, other animals, and the planet.
She also emphasizes that we shouldn't get discouraged by thinking that our small choices don't make a difference. Recycling aluminum cans may seem like a small decision on an individual level, but it turns out to be a huge choice when you consider that, every year, Americans throw away enough aluminum to make a huge number of jet planes.
She urged participants to avoid television and negative messages from the media. When encountering advertising, she suggested, ask yourself what interest the advertisers have to gain by sending out their message. She recommends magazines like Adbusters, particularly their various spoof ads on food.
Ms. Sikora cautions not to get desensitized by the media and to think that our individual choices don't matter. To give an example of desensitization, she says:
Photo ©2000 by Tiffany Refior.